Rochdale manager John Coleman challenged his side to prove their 2-1 win over 10-man Gillingham was no flash in the pan.
Andrew Tutte's fortunate strike had Rochdale ahead on 15 minutes when his cross beat everyone and nestled in the corner before Gills' Danny Jackman saw red for a lunge on the goal-scorer.
Bobby Grant doubled the advantage after the break before Danny Kedwell notched a late consolation from the penalty spot. The win made it four games unbeaten for Dale after a shaky start to the season and condemned Gillingham to their first league defeat of the campaign.
Coleman insisted he was taking nothing for granted, saying: "I hope that was a statement of intent, but we're not getting carried away. We played well but then they did have 10 men for an hour. We could have put to bed earlier though, and should have done, we definitely had the chances to do it.
"I have to take my hat off to the back four, they have a combined age of 78, and nobody in the league has a defence as inexperienced as that, and they were excellent. We showed a great deal of character. We could have buckled when we conceded the penalty but we held strong.
"Tutte was absolutely magnificent. The standard he showed was well above this level. He was outstanding. I'm not sure what happened for the penalty. None of their players appealed for it. The ball came in and everyone went for the ball. No Gillingham players turned to the ref but he's seen what he's seen and we have to abide by that."